26 October 2015

"Richard Cory"

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

A poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson, published in 1897 (text via the Poetry Foundation).
Robinson's early struggles led many of his poems to have a dark pessimism and his stories to deal with "an American dream gone awry." His eldest brother, Dean Robinson, was a doctor and had become addicted to laudanum while medicating himself for neuralgia. The middle brother, Herman, a handsome and charismatic man, married the woman Edwin loved, Emma Löehen Shepherd... Herman Robinson suffered business failures, became an alcoholic, and ended up estranged from his wife and children. Herman died impoverished in 1909 of tuberculosis at Boston City Hospital Robinson's poem "Richard Cory" was thought by Emma (Herman's wife) to refer to God and her husband.
Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize three times in the 1920s.


  1. Simon &Garfunkel have a song that somewhat adapts the poem to music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwqwAy85CgY

  2. For some reason, Simon & Garfunkel's "Richard Cory" always reminds me of "A Well Respected Man" by the Kinks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcSm0ShU8Y8

  3. i never really 'heard' all the words to the S&G version, liking more for it rhythm and beat. i am definitely not playing that S&G song any more. part of my 'try to reduce the amount violence in my personal, day to day, life' effort.



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